At around 5 p.m. on Friday, August 16, I heard from my house, which is in Columbia City, a loud screech and a horrible crunch. I knew, my daughter knew, my whole family knew that it was another car crash on Rainier Avenue. We also knew which corner the accident happened (Rainier Avenue and South Oregon Street), and that a car either hit the Domino's Pizza on the west section of Rainier or climbed the sidewalk. My daughter walked to the intersection, returned home, and verified that, indeed, what we thought had happened had happened, again. That intersection is a mess, and so is the entire length of Rainier Avenue, which experiences an exceptional number of car accidents.
In response to this fact, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) teamed up with a local consulting firm NONWHITEWORKS* this summer to run a campaign that brings awareness to the crisis. Rainier Avenue averages a crash a day. That's just not normal. And because it's almost impossible to make drivers sensible about this crisis, to make them slow down and focus on driving rather than treating their vehicles like a comfortable living room sofa on wheels, it's a must that pedestrians and cyclists cross the avenue with great caution.
Yesterday, the campaign completed a billboard on Rainier Avenue and South Walker Street that recommends not blending in, wearing bright and colorful things ("Best place to wear neon: Rainier Ave S," states the billboard). Of course, there is humor in this, but it's also a matter of life and death that Rainier not be treated like an ordinary street.
If you visit the corner of Rainier Avenue and South Oregon Street, you will find debris and deep skid marks from a number of car crashes. And although SDOT is aware of how bad things are here and other parts of the avenue, it seems nothing of substance can be done about it. The cars want to move fast on a street that cuts through a very dense part of the city.
Enforcement of rules that save lives would ruin the driving experience, and so it is up to us (pedestrians, cyclists, and those waiting for buses) to ruin the walking, biking, and waiting experience. We are the ones who have to pay attention. "Look left, right, and left again [and again and again and again] at all intersections on [Rainier]." And, "look before you cross." And "make eye contact with people driving before crossing [Rainier]." And always remember to never" blend in."
* NONWHITEWORKS also runs the popular Storytelling Strategies for Dismantling Racism program.